Ganondagan State Historic Site

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Boughton Hill
Ganondagan Long House
Ganondagan State Historic Site is located in New York
Ganondagan State Historic Site
Location Victor, NY
Coordinates 42°57′40.16″N 77°24′45.85″W / 42.9611556°N 77.4127361°W / 42.9611556; -77.4127361Coordinates: 42°57′40.16″N 77°24′45.85″W / 42.9611556°N 77.4127361°W / 42.9611556; -77.4127361
Built 1670
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 66000559
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966[1]
Designated NHL July 19, 1964[2]

Ganondagan State Historic Site, also known as Boughton Hill, is a Native American historic site in Ontario County, New York in the USA. Location of the largest Seneca village of the 17th century, the site is in the present-day Town of Victor, southwest of the Village of Victor. It consists of two areas: the 245-acre (99 ha) Boughton Hill portion, the area of longhouses and burials, is a National Historic Landmark. The Fort Hill portion was the location of a fortified granary and consists of 33 acres (13 ha); it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[3] The complex is operated by the state of New York.


Ganondagan, site of a major 17th-century Seneca village, has a reconstructed Seneca longhouse and a small visitors center. The original town site covered nine acres, with dwellings and stores, fields, and areas for livestock. This area was the location of nearly 150 longhouses, as well as the burial grounds of the people. The village was surrounded by extensive corn fields and a large, fortified granary was at the Fort Hill site. It was considered the "breadbasket" for the Haudenosaunee. The Seneca supplied many of the Iroquois with corn.

The site includes miles of trails over more than 200 acres of property in the park. The Friends of Ganondagan have worked to preserve the Ganondagan land and Seneca cultural traditions.

Seneca traditions[edit]

Trail of Peace

Like many indigenous peoples, the Seneca cultivated the Three Sisters: staple crops of corn, beans, and squash. Women bred and cultivated different varieties of each staple, experimenting with a range of seeds. These crops were typically grown near each other, so that beans could climb the cornstalks, and the typically large leaves of squashes would prevent weeds from growing.[4]

Ganondagan was once the largest Seneca town; the Seneca nation was considered to occupy the western gateway of Haudenosaunee territory. This site is at the center of the story of the Peacemaker, who unified the five major peoples and created the Haudenosaunee confederacy. It survives to this day.

Seneca oral tradition tells of a Huron man who arrived among the Mohawk speaking of the Gayanesshagowa[3] (aka The Great Law of Peace). This prophet is known today as The Great Peacemaker. The Mohawk, Oneida, and Cayuga pledged to join his proposed confederation and, following a dramatic interlude, the Seneca agreed also.

The discussion about how to bring in the Onondaga took place in the house of Jikonsase, a Seneca woman elder now known as the "Mother of Nations." She proposed a solution which eventually brought the Onondaga into the fold, for it gave them a prominent place in the confederacy. She lived in the vicinity of Ganondagan, and is buried nearby.

Because of this tradition, the Seneca refer to Ganondagan as the "Town of Peace", and revere and protect the burial site of Jikonsase. The relation to their Great Law of Peace is more important than the attack that destroyed the village, for the people have carried forward their means of negotiating for solutions. Concepts of the confederacy may have influenced early American political thinkers,[5] although they gathered similar ideas from English and European thinkers.

Destruction of Ganondagan[edit]

Ganondagan and its adjoining fields were burned by French-Canadian forces on July 14, 1687, as part of a punitive expedition from Montreal led by the Marquis de Denonville.[6] The French were leading an army from Canada, which consisted of French army regulars, Canadian militiamen, and Catholic Mohawk and Algonquin warriors, to eliminate the Seneca as competitors in the international fur trade.[3] The Seneca had been dealing with the English and the French wanted to keep control of Iroquois trade. The conflict was part of what became known as the Beaver Wars.[7] Native American tribes fought each other, too, in trying to gain power in the lucrative fur trade.

The battle took place on Boughton Hill within view of these longhouses.[3] The French defeated the Seneca and destroyed their village.

For more than a hundred years after the American Revolutionary War, the Seneca used this area for agriculture. In the 1930s, their chief Freeman Johnson began to work to preserve the property, as looters were stealing artifacts.[3] In 1964 Boughton Hill was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and in 1987 the state historic park was established.

The Seneca people have made many contributions to the United States throughout its history. The political ideals the Seneca people had were contributed to the U.S. Constitution. The Seneca's matrilineal system gave considerable power to women. In 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York, American women created a proclamation of rights to achieve the same. They did not receive the vote until 1920.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ "Boughton Hill (Gannagaro)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-11. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Save America's Treasures Tour". White House Millennium Tours. 
  4. ^ Burkard, Kimberly. "Knowing the Three Sisters". Friends of Ganondagan. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  5. ^ Friends of Ganondagan. "Ganondagan". Friends of Ganondagan. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  6. ^ Published primary accounts of the French expedition include Jacques-Rene de Brisay de Nonville, “Narrative of the expedition of the Marquis de Nonville against the Senecas, in 1687,” trans. Orsamus H. Marshall, New York Historical Society Collections, 2d ser. 2, pt. 3 (1848): 149–92; and Louis-Henry de Baugy, “Journal du voyage de Monsier le Marquis de Denonville pour la guerre contre les Hyroquois, de l’année 1687 le 23e may,” in Journal d’une expédition contre les Iroquois en 1687. Lettres et pieces relatives au Fort Saint-Louis des Illinois, éd. par Ernest Hubert Auguste Serrigny (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1883), 49–127.
  7. ^ About Ganondagan
  8. ^ About Ganondagan

External links[edit]